What made ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ a fun movie were not just its action sequences or sense of humor, but its elements of both surprise and danger. Almost every moment kept you on your toes – making you wait for something to happen – only to provide a twist at each and every turn. Here, in ‘The Golden Circle’, every bit of surprise and sense of humor is traded in for a gleefully out-of-place story-line involving Julianne Moore playing a drug kingpin named Poppy, living in a hideout drenched in 50’s nostalgia, while grinding unsuspecting victims up as burgers as if she were Mrs. Lovett in ‘Sweeney Todd’, only the opposite. Cheerful and bubbly, but not actually creepy enough to pass as a good villain. Let’s take a look at Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine from ‘The Secret Service’. He was a ridiculous and clichéd spy movie villain with a cliched agenda, but one with an appeal to make him entertaining. I must mention that ‘The Secret Service’ was an action-comedy, which added to the fun.
‘The Golden Circle’ tries to bring back what made ‘The Secret Service’ great by incorporating enough stylistic non-stop action to keep itself afloat, yet by falling short on wit; giving most of its humor to merely a cameo by a swearing Elton John (who is the funniest thing about this movie). I admit that I laughed a couple of times during its attempts at humor, but I was feeling a bit empty. I was reminded by how great ‘The Secret Service’ was, while how ‘The Golden Circle’ just could not overpass it. (I miss 2015!) Living in a time when action sequels want to be bigger and epic with higher stakes, ‘The Golden Circle’ is at the level of thrills and danger to pass as popcorn entertainment, but achieves so little! Under the surface, ‘The Golden Circle’ wants to make its political satire huge by incorporating a “War on Drugs” element.
‘The Golden Circle’ takes place a year after ‘The Secret Service’. Eggsy a.k.a. Galahad (Taron Egerton) is now considered to be a member of Kingsman and taken under the wing of tech adviser, Merlin (Mark Strong). Outside of Kingsman, Eggsy has a fancy life, now in a relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom). When something destroys the Kingsman headquarters, he and Merlin relocate to America to find Statesman; the American equivalent of Kingsman, to take down Poppy’s organization, known as ‘The Golden Circle’. Contrasting from Kingsman’s fine sophistication and knack for tailored suits, is the wild side of Statesman, which brandishes liquor to the point where the organization’s names are that of liquor itself; Champ (Jeff Bridges), the calm and collected head of Statesman; Agent Tequila, (Channing Tatum) the wild, southern-talking cowboy; Agent Whiskey, (Pedro Pascal) who has the right weapon for the right job; and Ginger Ale, (Halle Berry) the tech adviser.
Before Merlin, Eggsy, and the rest of the Statesmen can get the job done, the two Kingsmen reunite with Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who was thought to be dead during the events of ‘The Secret Service’, but is confined to a rubber room, studying Lepidoptery, and suffering from amnesia. I never thought it would be a tragic happening, nor one that would take away what made Hart one of my favorite protagonists. Do not worry. He eventually retains his badass form later on, it just feels like a lengthy process. Once Hart returns to normal, the movie flows through with the thrills.
Had ‘The Golden Circle’ not sacrificed its element of twists at every turn, I would have loved it as much as ‘The Secret Service’. A great sequel, it is not. But an entertaining one, it remains.